Hand Safety

Hand Safety


“Protect your hands, it’s the only pair you have!”

Today’s Topic: Hand Safety

Imagine life without the use of your hands. Suddenly, basic tasks in the workplace and at home,
from operating a torque drill, to turning the ignition key in your vehicle become major obstacles.
Clearly, our hands are vital tools for performing a myriad of essential life and work functions, not
to mention the fact that they are one of our primary points of contact with the world around us. Yet
the data suggests that far too many people are putting their hands at risk – and paying a steep

The Risks
In the workplace, only the back contributes to more days-away-from-work injuries than the hands.
According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employers reported 140,460 hand
injuries that led to lost workdays in 2011, at an incidence rate of 13.9. OSHA 1910.138(a)
requires employers to provide “appropriate hand protection when employees’ hands are exposed
to hazards” such as severe cuts, abrasions, burns and harmful temperature extremes. OSHA also
notes that PPE is just one element of a hand-protection program.

Protect Yourself
“PPE devices alone should not be relied on to provide protection against hazards, but should be
used in conjunction with guards, engineering controls and sound manufacturing practices”, OSHA
explains in an appendix to its hand-protection regulation. Still, the bottom line remains the same:
With the appropriate mix of hand protection and safety measures, hand injuries are largely

Types of Hand Protection

  • Chemical- or liquid-proof gloves, to be chemical and liquid resistant, the gloves must be fully coated.

  • Latex rubber is a low-tech glove that works. Although it is waterproof, it will blister and delaminate when in contact with petroleum-based products.

  • Nitrile rubber (NBR) resists grease, oil and other petroleum-based products, and is water resistant or waterproof (if fully coated).

  • Polyurethane gloves, due to the polymer strength, provide extra abrasion resistance and extended wear. Manufactured from a cleaner polymer, they offer a softer feel. In addition, the polymer can be harder to puncture, providing increased protection.

  • Both PVC and Neoprene offer excellent chemical-resistant properties. Polyvinylchloride gloves frequently are used in the petrochemical industry. Neoprene gloves provide excellent chemical resistance to a broad range of hazardous chemicals, including acids, alcohols, oils and inks.

  • Coated gloves coupled with a lining such as cotton or cotton/polyester blends, textured nylon, Aramid and Dyneema fibers provide a mixture of levels of protection and comfort. Beyond the specialized coated gloves as mentioned above, there is a medley of coated jersey gloves or canvas coated gloves (often worn by painters or your average do-it-yourselfer) that are available in every hardware store.

  • Cut-resistant gloves are used when workers are at risk to be sliced or cut by equipment or the products they are handing. For food processing, industrial or assembly applications, using gloves with Kevlar or Dyneema fibers are preferred because of their comfort level. For the highest degree of cut resistance, there are heavy, metal mesh gloves used within the meat and poultry and food preparation industries. One final comment regarding cut-resistant knit gloves used in food prep and processing: it is preferred if the gloves are made with a continuous filament, cut-resistant fiber (not spun fiber) for an easier to clean glove.

  • Anti-vibration gloves, as their name states, are used for protection for highly specialized tasks such as operating chainsaws, grinders, nail guns, sanders and any machinery that produces high level of vibrations or where the individual is exposed to excess vibration.

  • Electrical hazard gloves should be used at all times when working on general electric equipment, elevators, moving walkways, swimming pools, fountains, branch circuits and switches, carnival rides, emergency power systems and solar photovoltaic systems, etc.

  • General purpose gloves are available in jersey, canvas or string knits, and are in placed in two basic classifications: drivers’ gloves and leather palm gloves.

  • Heat-resistant gloves are an entity unto themselves. There are heat-resistant gloves that are flame resistant, high heat resistant, convection heat resistant or all three.

  • Welding gloves are made of leather with heat-resistant panels. There are MIG and TIG models, as well as thinner gloves for working with different types of welding or small piece welding.

What hand hazards do we have in our workplace, and what can we do to protect them?

“Protect your hands, it’s the only pair you have!”

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